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Sale of the Mac?: A Midseason Buy/Sell Analysis

@devydeets examines some buy/sell candidates as the college football season hits full speed

Credit: Washington Post

As Thanksgiving approaches and the weather gets colder, most of the college landscape is back in action. Things almost feel like they are back to normal. Alabama appears to be the presumptive favorite to win the college football championship, Texas is not back, and Michigan is already out of the Big Ten race. So to celebrate some normalcy, I looked at some of my favorite sell high and buy low candidates across devy and Campus to Canton leagues.

QB

Buy-Low

Credit: Bleacher Report

Trey Lance, North Dakota State (‘21 eligible):

I am calling this a buy low, although it certainly is not a “buy cheap.” Yes, Lance will still be more expensive than some other quarterbacks in his class, but many have forgotten why Lance was so highly rated in the first place. His showcase game against Central Arkansas seems like it was ages ago, and his performance in that game received mixed reviews anyway. With Lance, NFL teams aren’t drafting him for what he is now, but what he could become.

I watch Lance and see a lot of Josh Allen, but I have Lance graded higher than I had Allen when he came out of school. Lance is slightly more accurate and seems to possess more touch on deep balls than Allen did at this point in his development. His rushing upside is also enormous, which has proven to be the “Konami Code” for fantasy quarterbacks in recent years.

Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina (‘22 eligible):

With the pooling of talent at the top schools, most would assume that most top quarterback prospects would come from the Ohio State’s, Clemson’s, and Alabama’s of the college football world. While those schools have pumped out strong QBs over the past decade, we have also seen first-round quarterbacks from schools like Louisville, Wyoming, Texas Tech, and North Dakota State. We may need to add Coastal Carolina to that list with the impressive play of redshirt freshman Grayson McCall.

Fellow Nerd Felix Sharpe wrote an excellent profile on Grayson McCall just a few weeks ago. So, I won’t go into a ton of detail on his skill set here. I will say that smart owners can take advantage of the big school bias to come away with McCall at a lower price than perhaps they should pay.

Sell-High

It’s tough for me to advocate selling high on too many quarterbacks, especially today, with most leagues operating as a Superflex. If you have a guy that you think has a shot to be a decent NFL starter, you don’t sell him unless another manager is willing to overpay. With that being said…

Mac Jones, Alabama (‘21 eligible):

Before I get too deep into this one, I want to say this is not an anti-Jones stance. In fact, I like Mac Jones for several reasons. He is one of the most efficient deep ball throwers in college, and he has excellent ball placement. It’s a testament to his skill level that the Alabama offense has not skipped a beat following the departure of Tua Tagovailoa. But, the past few years have shown us that mobile quarterbacks are the future of the position. There are many words that I would use to describe Jones, but mobile is not one of them.

Jones is receiving Heisman hype, and with the Crimson Tide rolling, an undefeated season is not out of the question. So take advantage of a league mate that is desperate to find a quarterback, and see what you can get in return.

Phil Jurkovec, Boston College (‘21 eligible):

Jurkovec is a Notre Dame transfer that took over as the Boston College quarterback at the beginning of this season. Jurkovec left Notre Dame because he was beaten out by Ian Book. That “safe decision” looks silly in hindsight. He has put up big numbers in an explosive BC offense throwing to Zay Flowers, Hunter Long, and Jaelen Gill. I have seen some analysts project Jurkovec as a potential Day 2 pick in the upcoming NFL draft, but he has yet to show enough consistency on a throw-to-throw basis for me to elevate him to such a level in my rankings. If you can get that kind of value for him, perhaps a 2-1 trade to upgrade that QB position in c2c leagues, I would recommend it.

RB

Buy-Low

Bijan Robinson, Texas (‘23 eligible):

Most experts expected the 2023 running back class to be strong, and so far, that prediction is looking good. Classmates Tank Bigsby, Jahmyr Gibbs, Zach Evans, and Kendall Milton have all excelled in their roles. The big disappointment from the group, aside from the injured Marshawn Lloyd, is Texas running back Bijan Robinson. Texas has been a mess at the position for most of the season, and Robinson has suffered as a result.

So why is Robinson a buy now? Simply put, there are managers out there who likely bumped the aforementioned running backs above him in their rankings. It’s not like Robinson has been a complete failure either. In fact, on a per touch basis, Robinson has been just as impressive as devy darlings Gibbs and Bigsby.

Credit: Sports Reference
Credit: Sports Reference
Credit: Sports Reference

As you can see, Robinson is averaging 5.8 yards per carry, which is better than both Gibbs and Bigsby. His 11.7 yards per reception is a great number, just short of Gibbs but significantly more than Bigsby. Per touch, he is putting up good numbers for a true freshman at a physically demanding position. He has NFL size at 6’0, 222, and is an impressive athlete.

For the record, I am not drawing large conclusions from these small sample sizes. I use these stats to contextualize the arguments against Robinson. He may not have “broken out” yet like Gibbs and Bigsby. However, he has not been as useless as some may claim. Robinson will not be cheap, but the price may be more reasonable than it was several months ago. If I could get Robinson + for one of the other top 2023 backs, I would do that in a heartbeat.

Blake Corum, Michigan (‘23 eligible):

Corum was a bit of a devy darling over the offseason, gaining several prominent fans in the community. I was worried that Harbaugh would view him as a passing back, which Harbaugh offenses have not traditionally produced. Corum is a smaller back at 5’8, 193. Through two games (yes, small sample size), Corum has looked like the most dynamic back on the team. Yes, Charbonnet has a 70-yard touchdown run. He’s struggled to find running room outside of that and has been a non-factor in the passing game.

Corum may not put up crazy stats this season, so he will be a season-long buy low. However, I guarantee the hype will reach new levels this offseason, so you should grab him sooner rather than later.

Sell-High

Credit: Des Moines Register

Breece Hall, Iowa State (‘22 eligible):

This one may be a bit of a shocker to most devy players, as Hall has been one of the most productive backs in college football this year. He has been tearing up poor Big 12 defenses and been dominant in most of Iowa State’s games. His profile also appears to be virtually flawless: Do you like counting stats? Hall has over 1,100 yards from scrimmage and 14 touchdowns. Do you like efficiency? He is averaging 6.3 yards per touch. A tough interior runner? Through last week he had three games of 100+ yards after contact. Explosiveness? He has the second-most first downs at his position.

Hall also has the ideal NFL size at 6’2, 215, and will likely test as an above-average athlete for the position. Brock Purdy has struggled this season, and Hall has become the focal point of this offense. It has been a seamless transition for him.

Right now, Hall is penciled in as the top back in his class. The 2022 class looks like it may be shaking out similarly to 2019, where Jacobs and Sanders were selected as the top backs but didn’t have the impressive measurables or resume that other top backs have had in recent years. If you can sell Hall at a Barkley or Jonathan Taylor value, you do it. If not, I am happy to hold as he is still a good running back prospect.

WR

Buy-Low

I tweeted out a thread a few days ago about some freshman wide receiver buys because this is the time of year in which owners get antsy that a guy hasn’t started producing yet.

Outside of these guys, there are several wide receivers of all shapes and sizes that are worth an inquiry in devy and campus to canton leagues.

Tutu Atwell, Louisville (‘21 eligible):

Atwell is the beneficiary of an offense at Louisville that basically consists of Javian Hawkins, Micale Cunningham, and himself. It’s great for college fantasy purposes and gives him plenty of opportunities to showcase his abilities. Fantasy owners may look at Atwell’s size (5’9, 165) and think of him as a one-trick pony. While he is certainly dangerous deep, he has a well-rounded game that should suit him well in the NFL. At worst, Atwell should be a dangerous returner with some situational upside. At most, he has the potential to be one of the biggest mismatches in the league. I hope he goes to an offense that will know how to put him in a situation to succeed. Atwell will go later than he likely should in rookie drafts, both due to his size and because the 2021 class is so deep. Right now, he is an enormous value.

Rondale Moore, Purdue (‘21 eligible):

Moore is another guy that won’t be a “buy cheap,” but his value is lower than it was a year ago. I still have Moore as the top receiver in the 2021 class, although the gap has certainly been closed by Jaylen Waddle this season, amongst others. I can’t stress enough how unprecedented Moore’s true freshman season was at Purdue. That year, he caught 114 passes for 1,258 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also added over 200 yards and two touchdowns on the ground while averaging over ten yards per carry. Last season, Moore suffered a knee injury early that sidelined him for the rest of the year. Moore was on pace to equal or best his freshman season before the injury, which was encouraging.

After initially opting out for 2020, Moore returned to school once the Big Ten announced fall football would be played. We have not seen him on the field yet due to a mysterious injury. A few games at the end of the year would be nice just to reaffirm his standing. For me, Moore is a better version of DJ Moore, who is currently valued as a low-end WR1. If I can find a manager sweating Moore’s place amongst the 2021 elite, I am buying all day.

Jadon Haselwood, Oklahoma (‘22 eligible):

Haselwood was the headliner of Oklahoma’s stacked 2019 wide receiver class, which included 5-star Theo Wease and high 4-Star Trejan Bridges. All three members have been disappointing in their own way, with Bridges having disciplinary issues and Wease’s uneven performance this year. Haselwood’s struggles have been outside of his control — he suffered a torn ACL in the spring that was slated to keep him out for the 2020 season.

Haselwood flashed as a true freshman last year, and he should have a role as a possession receiver in an OU offense that presents a ton of volume for its receivers. He has good size at roughly 6’2, 200, and is a good, although not great athlete. Haselwood recovered quickly from his injury and made his first appearance of the season against Kansas. Although he only had one catch for 33 yards, it was encouraging to see him out there. He will likely be eased back into things, so buy before he has a big game.

Daniel Jackson, Minnesota (‘23 eligible):

In 2018, college football fans and those that play in deep devy or Campus to Canton leagues watched Minnesota to see Tyler Johnson. They were also introduced to a freshman WR named Rashod Bateman, who would go on to be a star. In 2019, those same fans watched Johnson and Bateman excel, while redshirt sophomore Chris Autman-Bell flashed his potential. This season, fans will enjoy the Bateman/Autman-Bell tandem while watching true freshman Daniel Jackson burst onto the scene. Jackson is 6’0, 200, and is a dynamic player who runs plus routes and has good hands. There have been glowing reports about Jackson coming out of the Gophers program in the run-up to the 2020 season. With the team out of the playoff hunt, don’t be surprised to see him put up some numbers.

Sell-High

Credit: withthefirstpick.com

Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State (‘21 eligible):

Wallace has put up superb numbers while at OSU, the most recent in a long line of stand-out players at the position. After tearing his ACL toward the end of last season, he decided to return to school for his final year. This season, the 6’0 190 pound WR has 35 catches for 538 yards and four touchdowns through five games.

My big problem with Wallace is that I’m not sure his skill set translates to the NFL at his current size. One of his biggest strengths is his ability to attack the ball at the catch point. That is great in college, but we have seen jump ball specialists struggle recently in the NFL. Luckily for Wallace, he also is a strong YAC weapon and can do some other things. I have not seen much variety in his route running, something he needs to work on a bit before reaching the NFL.

Overall, Wallace is currently being projected as a team’s WR1, when in reality, I think he settles in as a decent WR2. I like Wallace, just not as much as most analysts. If you have any league mates that rely on others’ research or the most generic rankings online or are simply high on his potential, I’d pull the trigger on a trade.

Jake Smith, Texas (‘22 eligible):

Smith was a highly rated recruit coming out of high school following a senior season in which he was awarded the Gatorade National Player of the Year Award. Smith is seen as a versatile “chess piece” on offense that can play a number of roles, but has primarily operated out of the slot during his time with the Longhorns. He has been solid when he is on the field. The problem is that he seems to be consistently dinged up and has missed games both years on campus. In addition, Smith has ceded slot work to Jordan Whittington this season, a player with a similar profile in the same recruiting class. This is looking more like a timeshare between the two, which may keep Smith healthy but unable to reach the heights that many thought he could. I’m selling to someone who thinks Smith can reach his once lofty projection.

TE

Buy-Low

Baylor Cupp, Texas A&M (‘22 eligible):

Cupp is one of the most obvious buy-low candidates in all of college football. The former high 4-star recruit arrived at Texas A&M with much fanfare but has suffered season-ending injuries each of his first two years on campus. To make things worse, classmate Jalen Wydermyer has excelled in his absence, posting a 32/447/6 line as a true freshman and 25/276/2 through five games as a sophomore. Pre-injury, Cupp possessed top tier athleticism for the position and was considered a surefire early draft selection. Now, he looks to be behind Wydermyer and Iowa’s Sam LaPorta at the position, amongst others. Kupp is likely not owned in many devy leagues, but managers may be looking to move him in C2C’s.

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